Bruce Cornwell, Educational Film Animator, Cartographer, Dies at 88

March 21, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Bruce Haynes Cornwell, a creator of animated educational films, cartographer, and dedicated deep-water sailor, died at his Brooklyn Heights home January 26 after a brief illness. He was 88.

Born in Rockford, Illinois, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II setting up radio transmitters on Pacific islands. After earning a degree in cartography from the University of Wisconson, he moved to Prairie du Sac in that state with his wife and creative partner, the former Katharine Marie Seremal.

Working at home and raising two sons, they produced dozens of short films, starting in the late 1950s, on topics in mathematics, physics, and arts, pioneering in the use of computer graphics in their educational films. A film, “The London of William Hogarth,” won first prize in the art film category at the Golden Reel Film Festival in New York in 1957.

In 1967 the Cornwells moved to Brooklyn Heights and continued making films until the mid-1980s.

Bruce Cornwell also taught at the then Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now NYU-Poly), The New School, and the School of Visual Arts. He applied his mapmaking knowledge to projects of the New York City Planning Department and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, among other organizations.

When the church he attended, the First Presbyterian, installed a new hybrid electronic/pipe organ, his skills in electronics and mechanical engineering led to his becoming the organ curator for the church, despite being the only non-musical member of his own family.

An early member of the South Street Seaport Museum, he built a Mirror dinghy from a kit, and during OpSail 1992 he booked on for a trip on the Russian sailing ship Kruzenstern, an experience he remembered fondly.

He is survived by his wife and two sons, Eric and Scott and one grandson, Leon. A memorial service will be held this Saturday, March 24, at 2 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church, 124 Henry Street. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

— HK